For 16 years, I served my local congregation as a Worship Leader. I never embraced the term, always referring to myself as a glorified scheduler. I was always surrounded by vastly more talented people than me. Sure, I could hold a tune, orchestrate a few transitions between songs, and coordinate a team well enough. But singing into a microphone just felt vastly different from actually being able to play the drums, the keyboard, a guitar, or in the case of a few people I ran into throughout the years, all the above.
Seriously. Do you play 10 different instruments? Well, someone's hogging all the talent.
As reluctant as I've been throughout the years to absorb the title of Worship Leader, it's still a big part of who I am and what I'm passionate about.
As is community.
Running NewReleaseToday for 23 years has opened my eyes to kingdom building (lowercase k, intentional) in ways I never thought I'd see—especially in the church. Infighting, lawsuit threats, territorial positions, social media blocking, unkind competition—I have done my best to ensure our #sameteam mentality remains strong. We will partner with anyone, anywhere, at any time, and work hard to ensure we leave that partnership doing the best we can. It's how we strengthen each other and impact this dying culture for the right Kingdom—the one with the capital letter.
So, I was a bit shocked, but not surprised, to learn that the term "Worship Leader" is now being litigated by a newly empowered company that somehow successfully copyrighted the term within the last decade.
That's right. WORSHIP LEADER is now trademarked. Oh, I'm sorry. WORSHIP LEADER™ is now trademarked. That's going to take some getting used to.
Okay. Who cares?
Well, apparently, anyone who has built a hobby, brand, ministry, or company around that title, because now, the owners of the trademark—fresh off a reboot after the original founders passed away, handing the reigns to those focused on building their kingdom (again, notice the lowercase)—are going after random others in our industry who have dared use a phrase we've all using since we can remember.
Worship Leader Probs, now rebranded as Worship Probs, is a popular ministry that has brought laughter and encouragement to Worship and Production Leaders and their volunteer teams since 2016. Their logo represents the damage done to these creatives serving and empowering the world's church. They also posted a video discussing everything happening, hinting that the process and related discussions have only begun.
Rouge Worship Leader, a social media hobbyist who combines Worship Leading with Star Wars references (genius), recently posted a video explaining his situation and research on this issue. It's well done, informative, and shocking to learn that this is actually happening. A backup account, @RougeLeaderOfWorship, has been set up in case future aggression successfully shuts them down entirely.
Authentic Media, the new owners of Worship Leader Magazine, among others, posted a lengthy explanation in June 2022, full of defensive arguments on why they are beginning to, and plan to heavily, in the near future, protect their trademark. "Most recently, with the passing of our founder and the new eight partnership that we formed, we've been a bit behind, but we're now getting caught up and plan to continue to defend our trademark, as we have for decades." In other words, the mission was reassigned. It's time to get out there and stop all these brands from confusing our kingdoms with theirs.
Authentic Media cites its mission as wanting to "[empower] the church to build a lifestyle of worshiping Jesus through the creation and distribution of media content. This group has come together to resurrect the content already created for the next generations to study and to tell new stories that lead people to Christ through worship."
Sounds great, but this empowerment comes with the expectation that there's not enough room in this kingdom for more than one Worship Leader™, and there lies my biggest issue.
I'm all for protecting your investment. Building anything today costs real money, time, energy, and resources. If a company is smart, it will protect that investment. But at what cost and at what price? Attacking the very thing you are serving (in this case, the church) to own a full job title and position seems to lean more heavily on building a business (there's that lowercase kingdom again) while losing sight of what the ministry should be about.
"Empowering" and "threatening/enforcing" are not typically found in the same galaxy. And because of that, we think Rouge Worship Leader has the perfect meme and response for this situation that many more will find themselves in unless this new "empire" (aka kingdom) gets challenged in court. Considering the average salary of those passionate about leading the church in worship—that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.
Long live #sameteam.
And may GOD, not Authentic Media or any "company" pretending to do ministry, be with you.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991. Special thanks to Jake Frederick for providing additional article research and information.
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